by Andrew Heinzman on
If you find yourself constantly plugging and unplugging HDMI cables from your TV, then it may be time to buy an HDMI switch.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for the Nintendo Switch is almost here, and it’s a doozie. With the tepid performance of the Wii U, it’s safe to say that this is the most anticipated Smash Bros. game in a decade.
If you’re already limbering up your thumbs in preparation, or you know someone else who’s also a huge fan, you might be looking for some add-ons to enhance the brawling crossover experience. Here are a few choice accessories that will make your extended Smash Bros. sessions more fun, more comfortable, or just more convenient.
Super Smash Bros. Melee for the GameCube, released way back in 2001, was the entry point for many fans of the series. Its relative simplicity and hyper-fast fighting action means it’s still very popular as the “definitive” Smash Bros., still often played more than the Wii and Wii U entries. That being the case, plenty of fans prefer the unique layout of the GameCube controller for their fighting sessions.
Nintendo knows this: they released a GameCube controller adapter for the Wii U, and the same gadget still works for the Switch. But things are a little different. The adapter lets you use any of the old GameCube controllers or the re-released version (identical to the original) from Nintendo, but since it needs two old-fashioned USB-A ports, you can only use it with the Switch dock. It’s the cheapest way to get four GameCube pads working with Smash Bros. Ultimate, but it’s less than ideal, unless you insist on wires for latency reasons.
An interesting alternative is the 8BitDo “Gbros” Wireless adapter. This allows you to plug in an old-fashioned GameCube controller to a battery-powered Bluetooth radio, with some extra buttons for pairing. It and also supports NES and SNES Classic controllers. This one isn’t out at the moment, but if you only have one GameCube controller you really like and you just want to add wireless capability, it’ll probably be the best way. It will retail for $20.
But for my money, the best combination of the classic GameCube ergonomics and modern wireless Switch convenience is PowerA’s Wireless GameCube controllers. These are nearly-perfect replicas of the original GameCube pad design, plus extra buttons for the more advanced Switch functions. They’ve only made two ergonomic changes: a bigger, more comfy D-pad than the original Game Boy-style one, and an extra Z-trigger on the left and stick buttons, so the controllers can be used with all modern Switch games. (Oh, and they don’t have rumble motors…just like the original Wavebird for the GameCube.)
They’re even fairly reasonable in price at just $50 ($20 cheaper than a Pro Controller), and include motion controls. Note that these are already selling out quickly online—Gamestop appears to have a good bit of retail stock in its stores, though.
Naturally, the Switch’s Pro Controller and Joy-Con controllers work with the game, too, along with less expensive wired controllers that follow today’s somewhat dull conventions.
Multiplayer Smash Bros. is best played on as big a screen as possible, but the Switch’s console mode dock isn’t very portable. The Switch can lean back on its included kickstand, but it’s less than elegant and makes charging impossible—which is a bit of a design flaw with the Switch’s three-hour battery life.
You can alleviate this in a couple of ways. Nintendo sells an official charging stand, a USB-C charger that integrates a kickstand into its plastic case. The kickstand in the charger is both more stable and more adjustable than the one on the Switch itself. If you frequently travel with your Switch or you’d just like something a little comfier to play with on a table or desk, it’s a pretty good investment at just $20.
But a more complete solution is something Nintendo doesn’t offer: a full dock, complete with charging, HDMI-out, and USB access, that still allows access to the screen. There are some third-party alternatives, but some iffy implementation of the USB-C standard makes them kind of hard to recommend. A better, cheaper, and more hands-on solution is a dock mod: replacing the plastic shell of the Nintendo Switch dock with a compact third-party option.
This modified shell preserves all of the charging, data, and video ports of the Switch, but also includes a stand that lets you see the screen when it’s not being used in console mode. The replacement shell, including the tri-head screwdriver you’ll need to open the original dock, is sold from many Amazon resellers for under twenty bucks.
It takes about half an hour to install, and any adult should be able to handle the fairly straightforward operation. We’ve even outlined the process over on How-To Geek. The result is a gadget that preserves all of the Switch Dock functionality, includes a handy stand for portable charging, and is about the size of a deck of cards.
Of course, if you’re traveling somewhere and you don’t have access to power, you’ll want to bring some along. The Switch needs more direct electricity than most mobile batteries can provide, but this Anker model can supply enough to keep it running even during full-power play. And it’s big enough to completely charge it at least four times over.
Nintendo hardware is generally pretty tough, but the Switch is a $300 gadget with another hundred bucks worth of games and controllers. A little investment to protect it is probably a good thing.
This portable case will hold the console and Joy-Cons and not much else, but it’s a great choice if you want to travel light (especially if you already have a USB-C charger for your phone or computer). A more elaborate option includes space for the dock, charger, extra controllers, and games, in a foam-lined package about the size of a briefcase. It’s ideal if you’re planning on a multiplayer session away from home.
Most of the exterior shells and grips for the Switch don’t add a lot of functionality, but we are going to recommend a screen protector. Unlike more or less all modern smartphones and tablets, the Switch’s screen is cheap plastic instead of tempered Gorilla Glass. It’s much more prone to scratches or damage to the LCD panel underneath. I use this glass screen protector from BlackWeb (Walmart’s house brand), which includes this wonderful molded plastic applicator shell. It allows you to get the glass protector aligned perfectly with the Switch’s screen and speaker cutouts.
Nintendo’s “toys to life” Amiibo have been around since the Wii U. They’re little plastic figures that can connect with the Switch via the NFC reader in the Joy-Con or Pro Controller, doing different things for different games.
In Smash Bros., they allow players to collect, train, and improve AI-controlled analogues of fighters. Come to think of it, they’re pretty much exactly what that creepy story mode trailer is all about…
Anyway, Smash Bros. Ultimate doesn’t have the deep integration with Amiibo that the Wii U version did, now that custom moves are gone. But it’s a nice way to expand your game ,especially if you’re a fan of a few specific characters. Any Amiibo that matches the vast roster of fighters will work, and Nintendo will expand its toy selection over the next few months to cover every character in the game. If the $15-30 price tag (or much more for the rarer variants) is too much for you, you can get the same functionality from third-party NFC cards available on eBay, minus the neat-looking figures.
With a few extra accessories you’ll have not only that classic N64-style controller feel you crave, but plenty of juice to keep playing on the go and even some game-expanding Amiibo goodies.
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